New Australian research reaffirms the now established link between the brain and the gut, this time in patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal disorders. The study suggests that anxiety could increase the risk of developing the condition by up to 50%. Conversely, two thirds of suffers reported gut troubles before the onset of anxiety symptoms.
Stress and diet are well-known factors for triggering IBS. Researchers at the University of Newcastle, Australia, have now found that the opposite can also be true, with gut symptoms potentially leading to psychological symptoms such as anxiety.
Researchers followed 1,900 participants for one year, with questionnaires evaluating their levels of depression, anxiety and the onset of any potential gut symptoms at the beginning of the study and one year later.
The results showed that participants with the highest levels of anxiety and depression when the study began had a greater risk -- by up to 54% -- of developing IBS within one year.
On the other hand, the risk was reduced by 60 to 70% for participants with low levels of anxiety and depression at the start of the study, compared to those with higher baseline levels.
The study also revealed that psychological symptoms preceded intestinal symptoms in a third of participants, whereas the opposite was true for the remaining two thirds.
This relationship between the gut and the brain has been highlighted in a second Australian study examining the impact of Crohn's disease -- an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) -- on brain function. Symptoms of subtle cognitive impairment, difficulty concentrating, clouding of thought and memory problems are widely reported and observed in sufferers, who can also be prone to higher levels of depression and poor-quality sleep.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic functional disorder of the gastrointestinal system that affects around 15% of the world's population. It can have a significant impact on the daily lives of sufferers with phases of acute diarrhea and constipation, bloating, gas and cramps.
The study is published in the journal "Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics" and is available here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/apt.13738/abstract